In a Marxist rewriting of that well known Christ saying about the poor always being among us we might say then that, structurally speaking, ‘the proletariat you will always have with you.’ For they are precisely the excluded that always unsettles the smooth running of our power systems. Who they are will change depending on the historical situation (woman, Jews, Muslims, GLBT etc.) but the excluded ‘class of no class’ will continue to exist as the no-things that continually de-center the things that are.
The focal point of early Christian self-understanding was not a holy book or a cultic rite, not mystic experience and magic invocation, but a set of relationships: the experience of God’s presence among one another and through one another. To embrace the gospel means to enter into a community, the one cannot be obtained without the other.
The following is an excerpt from Peter Rollins’ newest book, The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction. In this section, Rollins describes a service in which those gathered are invited to interact with and change the words as they saw fit to the Nicene Creed. At the close of the service, the finished arrangement as follows was then read aloud:
I believe that creeds aren’t worth the paper they are written on… But I still believe in God.
I believe that if you look at my life, you’ll only sometimes see what I believe.
I believe that if we have two coats, we should give one away (though I don’t do it).
Today I don’t believe in anything; tomorrow who knows.
I sometimes believe in God—one who existed before time, beyond gender or fathom.
Maker of heaven and earth and ginger (all good things), whales, two-hundred-foot cliffs, cloud banks, shipwrecks,
And in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost—how?
Born of a fourteen-year-old, Mary, scared out of her wits
Was crucified, dead, and buried, and I used to believe in the penal substitution theory of atonement, but now I just see a violent death and struggle to see how violence can ever be redemptive…
He descended into hell, or was hell all around him all the time?
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into safety of abstraction, away from having to feel this, from dealing with this,
And sits, maybe sprawls, on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.
I believe in me; I believe in the Spirit, Sophia, wisdom…
The holy catholic (i.e., everybody) Church;
The Communion of saints; does this mean me?
The Forgiveness of sins (but I still fell shame); (don’t you?)
The Resurrection of the body.
I believe in singing the body electric
And the life everlasting,
A life we find right here in our midst.
It could be said that humans have always sought, in different ways, to be God. It is natural for us to want to escape our finitude, to have the answers, to gain a God’s-eye view of the universe. But interestingly, within the Christian narrative, becoming like God would mean embracing our humanity. For this is what we see in the Incarnation. Becoming like God would mean affirming our finitude, celebrating our limits, and accepting that we are immersed in mystery. These are not signs that we’ve somehow failed to touch the heart of faith; instead, facing their reality demonstrates courage and faith. Indeed, it is a sacred act that is not something we do to our faith but is an expression of our faith. When we accept our unknowing and brokenness, we are not weakening our faith, we are boldly expressing it.
Even when it does not benefit us, perhaps especially when it does not benefit us, Christians are to be truthtellers. Our settlement in this country was only possible due to the enslavement and massacring of its natives. We all have blood on our hands.
This does not mean, however, that we are to live lives of perpetual guilt because of our heritage, but it does require that we live lives that enact justice, that attempt to find solidarity toward those we have for so long wronged. I am not entirely sure what such justice would look like. I imagine we would need to leave that up to the Native Americans.
What I do know is that our celebration of Thanksgiving Day must take a different shape. Christians only have one true thanksgiving celebration and that is the Eucharist. The Eucharist means thanksgiving, and it is in our feeding on the broken body of Jesus that should enable us to better understand those bodies that were broken in order for us to be where we are today. This is not to equate the sacrifice of Jesus with the sacrifice of American Indians; rather, because we feed on a broken savior, we have the resources to better name those who have been, likewise, broken. I think that the most interesting, the most counter-cultural, perhaps the most subversive (and, more importatly, faithful) thing a Christian could do on Thanksgiving would be to fast.
After fasting as a means of protesting the lies that have become a part of the mythos of the birth of this nation, Christians could cap the day off by celebrating the Eucharist. Perhaps then we might find a way to truthfully move forward in regard to our past with our native brothers and sisters.
… [A]ll of this language of imitation and participation, all the pious and pastoral meditation on the believer’s cross, takes on a new dimension if we take the measure of the social character of Jesus’ cross.
The believer’s cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the bearing of which is demanded. The believer’s cross is, like that of Jesus, the price of social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of a path freely chosen after counting the cost. It is not, like Luther’s or Thomas Müntzer’s or Zinzendorf’s or Kierkegaard’s cross or Anfechtung, an inward wrestling of the sensitive soul with self and sin; it is the social reality of representing in an unwilling world the Order to come. The Word:
“The servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me they will persecute you.”
is not a pastoral counsel to help with the ambiguities of life; it is a normative statement about the relation of our social obedience to the messianity of Jesus. Representing as he did the divine order now at hand, accessible; renouncing as he did the legitimate use of violence and the accrediting of the existing authorities; renouncing as well the ritual purity of noninvolvement, his people will encounter in ways analogous to his own the hostility of the old order.
Being human, Jesus must have been subject somehow or other to the testings of pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust; but it does not enter into the concerns of the Gospel writer to give us any information about any struggles he may have had with their attraction. The one temptation the man Jesus faced—and faced again and again—as a constitutive element of his public ministry, was the temptation to exercise social responsibility, in the interest of justified revolution, through the use of available violent methods. Social withdrawal was no temptation to him; that option (which most Christians take part of the time) was excluded at the outset. Any alliance with the Sadducean establishment in the exercise of conservative social responsibility (which most Christians choose the rest of the time) was likewise excluded at the outset. We understand Jesus only if we can empathize with this threefold reject: the self-evident, axiomatic, sweeping rejection of both quietism and establishment responsibility, and the difficult, constantly reopened, genuinely attractive option of the crusade.
—John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus